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Mon, Jun 13, 2011

'Rocket Girls: Women Astronauts & the Space Shuttle' Exhibit Now Open

History Of Women Astronauts And The Space Shuttle On Exhibit At IWASM

As NASA prepares for the final space shuttle mission, with Atlantis scheduled to launch on July 8, the International Women's Air & Space Museum (IWASM) is documenting the history of women astronauts in the space shuttle program with the new exhibit, "Rocket Girls: Women Astronauts & the Space Shuttle". To help tell the story of the early women astronauts, IWASM has utilized several comprehensive archival image discs made by Retro Space Images. Each disc contains high resolution color and black & white images in chronological order from NASA's archives, contractors and other sources. Many of the images have been made available publicly for the first time and allow museum visitors to go behind the scenes and experience NASA's Space Shuttle Program like never before. "Rocket Girls: Women Astronauts & the Space Shuttle" is open through November 13, 2011.

Artifacts on display include a launch & entry suit (also known as a "pumpkin" suit) worn by two women astronauts, a shuttle tile and Space Shuttle tire. Also exhibited is a collection of Space Shuttle memorabilia including commemorative patches, buttons, & coins. Artifacts from various launches at Kennedy Space Center are also included. Many of these items are from the collection of Marcy Frumker, IWASM space historian and board member. "With the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011 and the last woman astronaut, Sandra Magnus, set to fly on the last mission this summer, this seemed an appropriate time for IWASM to mount an exhibit devoted to the women of the Space Shuttle Program," said Frumker. "After the orbiters are retired, American astronauts will have to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to fly to the International Space Station. Commercial U.S. rockets are in the offing, but until they're rated for humans, fewer U.S. astronauts--men and women--will be making their journeys into space."

Prior to the Space Shuttle Program, no women had ever flown in space at NASA. In 1961 thirteen American women passed the same astronaut tests performed on the Mercury 7 but never had an opportunity to become astronauts. Two Russian women flew on Soviet space vehicles in the 1960s & 1970s.

NASA selected its first group of women astronauts in 1978. For the first time there was diversity in the astronaut corps. The class of '78 was nicknamed "Thirty-Five New Guys" or TFNG since it was the first group to include women and African Americans, and all were chosen to fly on the brand new space shuttle vehicle. The women astronauts of the Space Shuttle era followed various pathways to the astronaut program. Some were pilots, medical doctors, scientists, engineers and military officers. Shuttle astronauts, unlike astronaut groups selected before them, were designated as either pilot astronauts, mission specialists or payload specialists. Pilot astronauts were those who flew the shuttle and could become shuttle commanders. Mission specialists were more generalists and were trained for robotics, spacewalks, and science experiments. Payload specialists who flew on the shuttle were not NASA selected astronauts but were selected by commercial or research organizations for a specific payload.

The International Women's Air & Space Museum is located in the Burke Lakefront Airport terminal building, 1501 N. Marginal Road. Museum admission is free and exhibits are open 8:00 am - 8:00 pm daily. The Fay Gillis Wells Research Center and Gift Shop are open 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Monday through Saturday. The Joan L. Hrubec Aviation Education Center is open daily for summer visitors from 11:00 am - 4:00 pm.

FMI: www.iwasm.org

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